How Long Should a Child’s Attention Span Be?

Children are known for having short attention spans, but how short is too short? Is your child just an excited kid with a lot on his mind, or is there something else contributing to the attention span? This guide explains how long a child’s attention span should be, along with tips for improving your child’s focus.

Average Attention Span by Age Group

If it feels like your child can only focus for five minutes, that may be entirely age-appropriate! Here are the average attention span durations for each age group:

  • 2 years old: 4-6 minutes
  • 3 years old: 6-8 minutes
  • 4 years old: 8-12 minutes
  • 5-6 years old: 12-18 minutes
  • 78 years old: 16-24 minutes
  • 910 years old: 20-30 minutes
  • 11-12 years old: 25-35 minutes
  • 13-15 years old: 30-40 minutes
  • 16+ years old: 32-50+ minutes

Of course, every child is different. Some children may fall outside of that spectrum, but that should give you a reference point. If your child is in school and cannot focus for 5-10 minutes, there may be an underlying factor worth uncovering.

Is a Short Attention Span a Sign of ADHD?

A short attention span could be a sign of ADHD, but it’s not the official deciding factor. Children with ADHD struggle to focus, stay organized, and complete tasks from start to finish. They may get frustrated by tasks that require focus, or they may fidget throughout the day. Thus you may want to get an ADHD screening if your child has a short attention span, but don’t assume your child has ADHD just because of a short attention span.

Does Screen Time Impact Attention Span Development?

Yes, studies show that giving a child too much screen time “has been found to negatively impact attention span and language and cognitive development.” It can also lead to extreme tantrums, mood swings, sleep disruptions, irritability, aggression, and many other issues.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen time as much as possible until a child reaches two years old. From age 2-5, a child should only have up to one hour of high-quality screen time (enriching TV shows, games or activities). These recommendations may not align with all lifestyles, but this is the best approach to maximize attention spans and cognitive development.

If you’re struggling to manage your child’s behavioral issues, reducing his or her screen time could boost the quality of life for your household. Learn more: How to Reduce Screen Time and Boost Mental Health

Tips to Improve Your Child’s Attention Span

Reducing screen time is just one of many ways to improve your child’s attention span. If you can establish a consistent, predictable routine from day to day, your child will thrive in all areas. School, chores, family time and meal time all become muscle memory when there is a routine in place. This may make it easier to manage screen times and complete daily tasks without resistance.

Encourage your child to use his or her imagination. Play outside or use enriching activities that don’t rely on screens. Figure out what your child is interested in, and use that as a tool for growth.

If your child is struggling in school or at home, it may be time for a professional evaluation. One of our licensed neuropsychologists could assess your child’s strengths, symptoms and struggles to determine if there is an underlying condition at work. A learning disability, ADHD, autism and many other conditions may be contributing to the short attention span and subsequent frustrations.

CNLD Testing & Therapy offers a wide range of psychological testing services, as well as personalized treatment plans and educational advocacy. Reach out to (734) 994-9466 to start your journey.